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Darwin Correspondence Project

From Andrew Smith   26 February 1871

16 Alexander Square

26 Feby 1871

My Dear Darwin

A few days ago as I was about to write to you I found that I had mislaid your address and that I must proceed to town to obtain it,—no difficult matter for a person in good health but not a very easy affair for one circumstanced as I am, I assure you   I was much pleased when I received a copy of your latest work and though I have them all I hold it in the highest estimation as proving to me that I still live in your recollection.1 I have not simply perused your books but I have carefully studied them and from time to time yet I cannot arrive at any decided opinion   I find objections to your theory present themselves from time to time which I cannot overcome and I have more than once decided to write down what they were and send them privately to you. The state of my health has however overcome my resolves and here I am still working as far as is in my power

You are a most wonderful man producing works of such ability under such adverse circumstances   I think you must be either greatly favoured by the Devil or God almighty. I wish how I could discover how you manage   my energy is quite gone and though I have materials almost endless still I cannot work above a couple of hours in the course of a day2   I am now suffering and writing with an effort, I have one great failing and which has always proved most disadvantageous to me the desire to apply to every kind of novelty which presents itself and in this predilection I find verified the old adage that a rolling stone never collects moss, I have one consolation that Dr. Pusey3 appears in his proceeding very like me, you are blessed with a very opposite disposition which with your great talent and powerful imagination renders you the subject of universal admiration   I assure you I have not failed to heartily accord in all that has been said in your praise and I have always felt great pleasure in knowing that I could view you as an old friend.

Now that the weather we may hope will shortly admit of my leaving the house I hope you will let me know a couple of days before you inttend visiting visiting Down and I will endeavour to call at the British Museum & get a shake of your hand4

Yours most faithfully | Andrew Smith

I am afraid the pen I have used will have so mangled what I have written that you will scarcely be able to read it


Smith’s name appears on CD’s presentation list for Descent (Appendix IV). He had corresponded with CD about his observations in Africa (see Correspondence vol. 10, letter from Andrew Smith, [November? 1862], and Correspondence vol. 15, letter from Andrew Smith, 26 March 1867). See also letter from W. W. Reade, 1 February 1871.
Smith had published on the zoology and ethnography of South Africa.
The Darwins were in London from 23 February to 2 March 1871 (CD’s ‘Journal’ (Appendix II)).


Correspondence: The correspondence of Charles Darwin. Edited by Frederick Burkhardt et al. 29 vols to date. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1985–.

Descent: The descent of man, and selection in relation to sex. By Charles Darwin. 2 vols. London: John Murray. 1871.


Admires CD’s ability to work so hard under adverse circumstances; finds his health makes all work an effort.

Letter details

Letter no.
Andrew Smith
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
London, Alexander Square, 16
Source of text
DAR 177: 185
Physical description
ALS 4pp

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 7516,” accessed on 21 July 2024,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 19